Book Review: Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman

Of all the banned books I’ve read, this graphic novel duology is toward the very top of my recommended list.


The true story of the artist’s father, Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman depict the life of a Polish Jew and survival of the Holocaust. Volume I begins with life as normal, before World War II - his father courts his mother, they have a family, and business generally goes on as usual. We know in retrospect, however, that things get very dark very quickly when the 1930s come around. Without spoiling all the details, Volume I ends (and Volume II picks up) when his father is taken to Auschwitz. image001 (3).png


It’s apparent from the beginning that both parents will survive, since we find out pretty quickly that the artist was born after World War II, but beyond that it was harrowing for me to read the details of how they managed to make it out alive. Spiegelman doesn’t entirely remove himself and the present day from the story, either: a good portion of both books depict his relationship with his father as an adult and an elderly man living in New York. We occasionally cut to something else, too, whether it’s a (relevant) comic the artist has formerly drawn or a session with his therapist, which equally adds value to the narrative and gives the reader a breather from the intense story his father is telling. 


Maybe it’s because I believe tough subjects require tough conversations instead of erasure, but I struggle to understand what was gained from banning these books. There’s some validity in saying younger readers should explore other Holocaust depictions first, but maturity develops differently in everyone. There are certainly those who haven’t turned 18 who would gain a lot of knowledge from the Maus duology and handle its tough subjects well - a little discretion may be necessary, but not a ban. For better or for worse, the horrifying content and message of Maus is still important, and its two books prove to still be popular and circulate regularly at Charles City Public Library since they were added to our collection almost 20 years ago. 


I wish I could say more, but I think Maus is best discovered going in relatively blind rather than knowing too much beforehand. I will reiterate, though, that it’s a troubling and brilliant memoir that deserves the praise it’s been given. 


Maus I and Maus II are in Charles City Public Library’s collection, available for all patrons to read. Get the physical copy today by stopping in or calling 641-257-6319.